Most of you know the poem that begins, “When I am old, I shall wear purple.” The poem’s title is “Warning,” and it was written in 1961 by British poet Jenny Joseph.
In 1961, wearing purple was a much bigger deal. I had a great-aunt, who made pronouncements. Her name was Ann, but since “Aunt Ann” was hard to say, we called her “Auntie.”
One of Auntie’s pronoucements was: WE DON’T WEAR PURPLE.
Another one was : WE DON’T WEAR PRINTS.
I loved Auntie dearly and named my first daughter Katherine Anne after her, but you can see me above, wearing purple and a print. I think getting older is all about breaking rules, even a beloved great-aunt’s, and it’s all about knowing which rules are okay to break.
Anyone want to offer up some recently broken rules?
Now about the title of Jenny Joseph’s Poem: “Warning.” Is ours the only family where the expression “warning” is sometimes used in reference to the future?
I’m just warning you that when I’m sixty-five, I’m not going to…
I’m just warning you that as soon as I retire, I’m thinking of…
I’m just warning you that if I’m a grandmother, I plan to…
I’m just warning you that someday, I might decide to…
I’m just warning you that when I have my own kids, I won’t ever…
I don’t think it’s bad to warn someone of an action or attitude to come, but what I think the person is really doing is stating a yearning for a change he or she would like to make right now. Speak up oh family, and I will speak up too. Let’s be purple-wearing brave!
Jenny Joseph ends her poem:
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
What about you? What warnings could you put into practice right now?
Jenny Joseph’s photo is from an article in the Stroud News and Journal.
The photo of me was taken at Thanksgiving on Kath’s porch in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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